Commitment to Affordable Curriculum Earns Chemistry Faculty Member Inaugural Award

Julie Donnelly

A chemistry faculty member’s passion toward offering affordable course materials recently earned her the inaugural AIM High Student Nomination award.

Lecturer Julie Donnelly, Ph.D., was nominated by a student for the AIM Knight’s Choice Award, which recognizes UCF faculty members that help reduce curriculum costs.

“Students shouldn’t face barriers to getting the information they need to be successful in school,” Donnelly said. “Making course materials affordable reduces one of the many barriers they already face to being successful.”

The nomination stemmed from Donnelly’s decision to let students choose their own response device to her curriculum. That decision took away streamlined grading, but the extra workload for Donnelly was acceptable if it meant savings for her students. Hiring an undergraduate teaching assistant relieved some of the work.

That teaching assistant, Alondra Gittelson, was inspired by Donnelly’s work ethic and commitment to students and nominated Donnelly for the award based on her observations.  Gittelson adds that Donnelly furthered her passion for chemistry and made her feel more confident as a peer instructor.

“The amount of dedication and time outside of class she puts towards her students learning is so commendable,” Gittelson said in an email. “She even took the time to make her own excel formula to separately grade students so those who did not buy the materials could still participate and earn points.”

Donnelly also uses discount programs like First Day Inclusive Access. UCF students have saved $11 million from the First Day Access program during the terms from Spring 2019 to Fall 2021, according to the Pegasus Innovation Lab. (To receive the First Day discounted course materials, students will need to select “opt-in” for the materials in their Webcourses before the Drop/Add period for any given semester.)

“First Day is kind of a low-hanging fruit, meaning it’s very easy and accessible for instructors looking for affordable course materials,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly is currently working on a project with other faculty from the Department of Chemistry as part of the Course Redesign Initiative (CDI) with iLab. Part of the project goal is to create a completely free electronic textbook for the Chemistry Fundamentals series. She has been working closely with the CDI to offer high quality and easily accessible textbooks for students.

Donnelly expects the electronic textbook’s release in Summer 2022.

“It was important for me to offer affordable course materials because I didn’t want students obligated to spend more money only because it increased my workload,” Donnelly said. “I didn’t think that was fair.”




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